FULFILLMENT SERVICES -- Printers Getting Their Fill
The mid-size sheetfed printer formally got into the business about two years ago, but its fulfillment operation didn't become profitable until this year, Kennickell reports. "You need to find the right people to make the business a success," he says. "They need to be detail-oriented."
In addition, the traditional print selling strategy must be modified to address this market, the company exec asserts. "You need to start at the right point in the food chain. That means dealing with people who have budgetary responsibility," he advises.
As president of a small commercial printing operation, Sun Printing House in Philadelphia, Cynthia Wollman says she found offering fulfillment services appealing because the work is not as hit-and-miss as printing. It is often done under contract.
Extra Security Added
Sun Printing is typically selling against clients doing fulfillment work in-house, Wollman says, which means doing what it takes to provide cost-effective solutions to their headaches. As an example, she points out that the company had to turn part of its plant into a caged area in order to provide the security required to handle fulfillment of a client's sample promotions for over-the-counter medications.
Even though it's not dealing with prescription drugs, the shop has to be very diligent in its inventory management, the printing exec adds. This includes monitoring expiration dates and seeing to the return or proper disposal of unused samples.
Security is just one of the issues companies face if they look beyond fulfillment of printed materials to handling products, especially consumer goods. Working out responsibilities for dealing with returned merchandise is a must. A Web-based inventory management system is a plus for any fulfillment operations, but online order placement/tracking capabilities are the standard in direct merchandising. Establishing a separate company—or at least a brand identity—not associated with the printing operation may help with the selling proposition.